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Live from SEJ - Tips on how reporters are writing their stories.

A couple members of the GMT staff are here at the Society of Environmental Journalists conference in Burlington, VT. There has been much discussion about tools of the trade -- particularly about how blogs and wikis are changing the way reporting is done. I sat in on one session, however, that was led by Frank Allen, Executive Director of Institutes for Journalism and Natural Resources.

Although his session focused on writing tips for reporters, specifically ways for reporters to tell environment stories better, the advice he gave seemed beneficial for those of us who might be pitching a story to a reporter so that we have some insight as to how they're writing it.

Reporters are looking for a story that will be read from top to bottom. But, if a reader only glances through the first few parapraphs, they might be structuring their story along these lines:

-- Start with an attention grabbing lead
-- Jump right into the topic (a couple of sentences to draw in the reader)
-- Present the who and why
-- Present a flash-by of points that will be supported later on in the article
-- Acknowledge that there could be concession to these points (i.e. what is the other side saying)
-- Show and tell the best statistics and quotes
-- Use an anecdote that captures the essence -- action and behavior -- of the story

The goal the reporter has is to keep the reader/listener/viewer remembering the whole story as they read on. So the model above encapsulates a layout where the main story elements are revealed at the top of the story, then are supported throughout.

One other tip of the trade we've been hearing from reporters: Just because their email address is listed at the bottom of their story does not mean they want to receive all of your press releases. Reporters ask that PR folks pay attention to the recent stories that they've written and use common sense to decide if the news at hand is really of interest for a particular reporter. One online reporter suggested that instead of just adding him to your media list, send an introductory email to say who you are, who you work for, and then which topics you could provide resources for the reporter. This way, you're connecting with the reporter and asking permission to engage further -- not just adding them to a broadcast list of email addresses.

We'll share more feedback as we get it...

-- Bobbi Russell

October 28, 2006 in Media Training | Permalink

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